Kotex Brings Style to Feminine Care With Pad-Design Contest

Backed by Patricia Field, Brand Looks to Outdo Packaging Rollout With Competition to Change Products Themselves

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Feminine care used to be about demos with blue fluid and ads with women in white slacks pitching white pads. How much things have changed will become apparent April 4 as U by Kotex looks to one-up its iconoclastic rollout of 2010 by hiring a big-name stylist for the introduction of new haute sanitary pads -- and enlisting girls and women to design their own.

A NEW FORUM FOR SELF-EXPRESSION: Kotex found women were sick of the 'institutional experience' of pads.
A NEW FORUM FOR SELF-EXPRESSION: Kotex found women were sick of the 'institutional experience' of pads.

For the rollout, Patricia Field, the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated fashion and costume designer behind "Sex and the City," "Ugly Betty," and "The Devil Wears Prada," has turned her attention to feminine care. She's designed carrying tins for U by Kotex products hitting stores in July and will work with girls who win an online contest at BantheBland.com to design a new U by Kotex product next year. Winners will also attend Fashion Week in New York City in September.

The premium Kimberly-Clark Corp. feminine care line's brightly colored wrappers ensconced in fashionable black boxes last year helped reverse a generation of declining shares for Kotex -- producing overall brand sales gains ranging from 9% in pads to more than 50% in tampons in the four weeks ended March 2 vs. a year ago, based on SymphonyIRI data from Deutsche Bank.

While last year's launch poked fun at the category's advertising conventions, this year's campaign aims more squarely at ideas of how the products should look. "We've had women tell us, 'It's such an intimate part of my personal-care routine and I've had to settle for this institutional experience,'" said Melissa Sexton, director of integrated marketing planning at K-C.

K-C has added three different color and design varieties to each box of pads and liners in the "Designer Collection" on store shelves now. In July comes a limited-edition series "themed to fit a girl's personal style," as the brand puts it, and bearing such names as BoHo, Poptimistic, Freestyle and Punk Glam, as well as designer tins from Ms. Field.

TV ads behind the campaign from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, show young women, put off by a dull ad for a bland, white sanitary pad on the side of a building, taking up spray paint and brushes to create a "Take a Stand Against Bland" mural over it.

Patricia Field
Patricia Field Credit: Payless Shoesource

"We, too, were a bit skeptical that girls would want to design pads," Ms. Sexton said. "What we found was a massive level of interest not just around a contest to design a pad but this approach of getting these girls inspired to change the future of fem-care."

The campaign also includes print from O&M, digital ads from Omnicom's Organic, PR from Marina Maher, and media planning and buying from Mindshare, all New York, plus in-store work from WPP Action, Chicago.

Ms. Field joins a list of names K-C has enlisted in the past two years in taboo categories where celebrity involvement was once rare, including Whoopi Goldberg for Poise and Kathy Griffin for the base Kotex brand.

Ms. Sexton said Ms. Field "sees the importance of activating young women to be part of societal change."

But Ms. Field also found herself caught up recently in the controversy over alleged anti-Semitic remarks caught on video from former Dior designer John Galliano. She defended her friend in an interview with WWD last month, saying Mr. Galliano is known for "his theater" and his comments might have been a "farce."

In an interview with Radar Online, she said she finds anti-Semitic comments unacceptable but that "until the judicial process runs its course, any judgments should not be made so quickly."

A K-C spokesman said in a statement: "The Kotex brand team started working with Patricia Field on this project more than six months ago and felt then, as we do now, that she is the best-suited celebrity designer to help us empower our girls."

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